Wolfgang Arndt was born in 1959 in East Berlin. While in school, he refused to enter the youth organisations (Pioniere, FDJ), which aroused suspicion by the Ministry of State Security (MfS).
Later he became involved in civil-rights movements and faced strong reprisals. Many petitions to leave East Germany were dismissed, leading Arndt to attempt an illegal escape. However, his plan was halted when he was betrayed. In 1980, he was condemned to six years in prison and in 1981 was finally ransomed by West Germany. The betrayer of his plan to flee was his wife.